Agbali gives a long rejoinder to Ayittey's essay on
Ayittey's comment<<Slavery, colonialism, artificial borders, and Western imperialism have
little to do with Africa's conflicts. The vast majority of Africa's conflicts are intra state in origin. They are not about driving away colonial infidels; nor redrawing colonial boundaries. The basic cause, in country after country, is the politics of exclusion or the struggle for power by a politically excluded or marginalized group. And the solution for each and every African country should be the same: Power sharing and the politics of inclusion.>>
First, I want to congratulate Professor George Ayittey for his new award. I hope my friend, Professor Ayittey, doesn't bask too much in the snow because he might get too wet and feel cold. I hope that he will continue to bask within the good rays of the tropical sun, but not with his typical machete! Else, he will cut too many people's head off thinking there are Coconuts- there is a difference between human heads and coconuts, even when they are not functioning as they ought to.
Ayittey has been very focal in what he perceives as the malaise within the socio-political arena of African polities. He has taken up and cogently addresses the issues of poor governance clearly and lucidly. In doing all of these Ayittey continues to recycle the same thoughts, facts, and insights which is not necessarily bad, but it gets to the point of aridity and sourness. The motivation and drive of Ayittey is understandable. However, when porous and superficial analysis are utilized in such process one should cry foul, since it should be detestable, and contested.
I highlighted the above vignettes to indicate that very fact. Its been a fact that I have had an history with Ayittey from our days at the SORAC Discussion forum, as well as others who vehemently disagreed with Ayittey in dispelling the fact that colonialism plays none or merely a minimal role in the construction of African crises. Colonialism, I presuppose plays a crucial role in the mode of contemporary African social ordering and political events. However, that does not minimize the role of poor governance and leadership in the paucity of social organization, good governance, and social development in many nations.
Examples abound that the role of colonialism plays critical roles in contemporary African crises. In Somali, one can only consider the mode in which its colonial historical trajectories- Italian, English and French surfaced in the fragmentation that took place in that country in the 1990s. In fact, interestingly when the various warring factions presided over their early peace initiatives many of these took place in the colonial capitals that shaped Somalian history- Rome (Italian) and London (Britain). In Rwanda, the different crises inheres in the fact of the privileging of particular ethnic groups over the rest. In fact, the Rwandan Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa engendered a homogenous and integrated nation prior to colonialism. However, when the colonialists came they utilized their biometrical methods, greatly shaped by their anthropologists, setting in motion the emergence of the ethnicity that began to rupture the peaceful coexistence of these traditional set up. By privileging ethnicity African social polities were reconfigured essentially through the forces of colonialism and its accessories. In Sierra Leone, right from the beginning there was often a tenuous situation between the settlers (the slave resettlement) and the aboriginals, the same was true in Liberia these early social tensions magnified through political manipulations into civil wars in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Even in Nigeria in 1993, the same colonial context emerged when with the annulment of the election of the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola as the President-elect was annulled the whole notion of "Abiola war" saw northerners, easterners and westerners going back to their different regions or states from integrated urban domains which indexed a colonial consciousness that privileged these regions. Or was it the Biafran war, that though masked by local aspiration was a war against the arbitrary inclusion of different ethnic nationalities into the demarcation of an unnegotiated nation. Today, in Nigeria there is still groups and prominent Nigerians talking about national sovereign conference as a conference of all ethnic nationalities and interest groups as a way of redeeming and reshaping the the contour lines that allowed the colonial hegemony such arbitrary power.
While, it is true that in Nigeria there was power devolution in 1999 to the South, most Nigerians have not by that mere fact enjoyed the "dividend of democracy today." Further, in spite of this devolution many Nigerians those who control the balance of power lie in today's Nigeria, and which group still control such dynamics. Of course, apart from the redundant and continual attempt at alluding to the issue of African politics with regards to appeal to ethnicity, there is an evolving novel process going on today, which is tied to class. Today, many aspiring to the highest political office are former military generals and their civilian allied. Again, the African military is a product of colonialism. Is there any wonder that colonial societies especially those of many African, Latin America, and even some Asia countries have similar political features? What in colonialism produces this effect? Is there something within the environment of colonialism? Or is there a degree of colonial authority that makes particular societies to produce certain effects, whereas others do not?
Colonialism was very oppressive and obnoxious, discriminatory, and even prebendal, hence Paulo Freire argues of Latin American nations that they might be some interaction between the environment and the individual leaders imbibing conditioning that shape such imaginations within the social polities. Colonialism was a powerful forces that shaped and appeared to have condition social consciousness. Hence to diminish and discard the fact of the power of colonialism as a process, ideology, and a system in the shaping of contemporary Africa just by a spontaneous wave of the hand is to show a total analytical ignorance of the way social structures and systems are shaped and transform themselves as autonomous orders within the social process.
Ayittey seems to have a very narrow perspective of the dynamics that constituted the process of colonialism only as it reflects on driving away colonial infidel, and the redrawing of geopolitical boundaries. He has a minimal understanding that colonialism reconfigured and radically altered a people and generations of social organizations. There, I advise that he must also begin to ingratiate himself within the tenor of the colonial imaginations already documented through historical and social analysis. The history Professors here can do a lot to begin to offer Ayittey and his like classes on African History 102. To singularly because of his access to the Western media, merely discard well known social and historical analyses based upon his ideological and self-interests is a disservice to the vast scholars who have done a lot, even at times at the cost of personal risks to document about this era. At least, Jean and John Comaroff have alerted us to the fact that colonialism is not just about the process alone, it is also about a modality that colonizes consciousness, as much as awakening a consciousness of colonization.
However, the point Ayittey makes that is important is in any case that an easy appeal to colonialism and imperialism should be deconstructed for what it is. African politicians are quick to devolve blames than they are easy to devolve power and evolve modes of accountable leadership. Ayittey is right to say that they need to be accountable and responsible. One instance is the Nigerian senate. Recently, the Nigerian senators and members of the House of Representatives were slapping each other. One male senator slapped a female senator, a female House of Representative member slapped a male colleague. Now, with all these going on, the Nigerian senate were irked because Shell refused to pay environmental compensation to the Ijaw whose land their oil pipeline spillages had desecrated and ecologically defaced. Shell retorted that the Nigerian legislature has no such rights to order it around. One reason, I guess this is so, reside in the fact that the Nigerian legislators through their singular actions have rendered themselves morally irresponsible, else a multinational like Shell can strike it as to what their roles should be in the Nigerian polity. Truly so, how many of them could have been sponsored by Shell through shady ways, or actually received bribes from Shell in the past?
On this score I agree with Ayittey, as much as corruption remain the bane of the African polity they would be minimal or total lack of social progress. However, on another score, I agree that while constructive criticism is good, sarcastic skepticism would not solve the African problem. Also as Ayittey writes and basks in his new glory, I would be interested to know, how his Free Africa Foundation is practically involved on the African terrain in resolving some of the issues he so critically criticizes? In essence, apart from talking, criticizing, and writing, as E. Ike Odogu's contribution shows what practical way is Ayittey involved in resolving these issues. There are too many ideas that needs practical action now from Ayittey, I would be glad to be informed as to what he has done, and will continue to do really in this direction. Also is Ayittey's himself and his foundation focused upon the gains, even if minimal, that are beginning to emerge in Africa? Else, does Ayittey sanction the popular imagination about him as an Afro-pessimist, and does such pessimism direct his good'ole boy pontifical perspectives about Africa?